We live in a consumer-driven world, where we just have to have the latest ‘thing’, and we have to have it now.

The new iPad just came out, I must have it even though my iPad is still fully functioning and only has a fraction less storage. My wardrobe is full, but it’s all last seasons style so I need to get a new dress. All my friends are really into this latest fad, I want in as well.

It is this ‘spend now, save later’ mindset that means we’re unable to afford what we really want – or suddenly need!

In my first job out of university, I found myself budgeting carefully. I’d always pay my housekeeping first (I was still living with my parents at the time), then move across the money for my phone bill, any appointments (hair/leg wax) as well as a months worth of money to pay for petrol and my dance classes. Then I’d put some money aside into a separate bank account as savings (for travel, for a future mortgage deposit, as emergency money). Then, and only then would I look at what was left and say to myself, ‘okay, this is what I’m living on this month.’

Very often, I’d turn down social plans that I’d otherwise attend just for FOMO (fear of missing out). I’d pick the right moments, people and activities, things that truly felt worth my limited pool of allocated money to live on.

This approach (along with the support of a brother and the remains of some money left to us by various dearly departed grandparents) enabled me to buy my flat last winter. With a mortgage, there’s an extra financial responsibility to always be prepared, and so the saving mindset has continued. It’s working well for me (so far) so I want to share some great tips with you…

Five Top Tips to Begin Living Within Your Means

  1. Build up your savings to ensure you have enough money to cover your financial responsibilities (mortgage/rent, bills, etc) for at least 2 months and then never let the bank balance go below this figure.
  2. The day you get paid, set aside all of your outgoings to ensure that you can honour these commitments.
  3. Set aside as much money as is feasible for you to save each month. It could be £50, it could be several hundred – everyone’s capacity is different.
  4. Live off of what remains! Be strict with yourself, don’t dip into the savings.
  5. This one’s more of a friendly tip – Get Life Insurance with Critical Cover. Seriously. This saved my family when my mum had her stroke a couple of years back. It’s worth it, believe me.

What makes this approach easier is recognising the need to live within our means. A watch still works regardless of whether it’s a Lorus or a Rolex. A car still gets you from A to B regardless of whether it’s a Ford Fiesta or a BMW. The point is, treat yourself – but not to impress other people. Treat yourself only to what YOU truly want and need. The rest is noise. Save first, spend later – and only on what you really need or brings you great joy.

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